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October 18, 2018updated 30 Sep 2022 6:57am

Popbitch reveals thousands of readers signed up in wake of ‘micro-paywall’ launch

By James Walker

Popbitch editor Camilla Wright said 3,000 readers have signed up since it launched a “micro-paywall” on its website earlier this year.

The weekly gossip website, whichpublishes long-read features on its website and sends out a weekly newsletter, charges 10p per article.

Popbitch readers pay a maximum of 30p a week from a micro-payment wallet, designed by tech firm Agate.

Once they reach the weekly cap, they are given full access to the website. They also have permanent access to an article once they’ve paid for it.

Speaking about the decision to install a paywall, Wright told Press Gazette’s Digital Journalism Summit: “Ad tech has pretty much destroyed free websites, because people fucking hate it. You cannot read about more than three inches on any page.

“We decided to get rid of all that, take the hit on the money coming in and asked people how they would want to pay.”

Asked why people reluctant to subscribe to publications would be drawn to micro-payments, Agate chief executive Dominic Young said: “Subscriptions are great for people very committed to a product, but there’s a massive gap of people who have a habit of reading a publication but don’t feel committed enough to pay for content every day.

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“I think the ambition for publishing should not be to stop the rot … when consumers can spend small amounts without making a commitment, they spend a lot.”

Agate takes a share of the revenue from the paywall, but Wright would not say how much that amounted to.

Asked how Popbitch came to its 30p cap price point, Wright said: “It’s trial and error at the minute. We had to invent a price to start with, and to be honest it’s probably a little on the low side.

“It’s not perfect, but it’s the first time that we’ve managed to make it work.”

Popbitch was the first publisher to partner with the Agate micropayment wallet system. The New European followed suit in summer.

Young claimed that there was “a pretty big pipeline” of people looking to launch the Agate system on their websites over the next few months.

He added that freelance journalists with a big Twitter following could eventually sell content to readers on their personal websites.

The Digital Journalism Summit is held in association with News UK.

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